We have all experienced many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped our state, and these challenges have emphasized how important access to affordable quality healthcare is for all Georgians. The priorities established by the House Republican Caucus for the 2020 Legislative Session include improving the quality and lowering the cost of healthcare for our state.
House Bill 791 allows pharmacists to dispense up to a ninety-day supply of certain medications, as opposed to being limited to thirty days. This bill also requires insurers to waive time restrictions on prescriptions during times of emergency. This important legislation provides patients and pharmacists with the flexibility needed to provide quality care in emergency situations and increases efficiency for patients by reducing how often Georgia patients are required to visit pharmacies to have prescriptions filled.
Georgians have, for too long, been plagued by surprise bills from hospitals when providers involved in their care were “out-of-network.” The House Republican Caucus prioritized this issue and passed two important pieces of legislation this year that will reduce surprise bills and provide Georgians more information when seeking medical care.
The Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act, House Bill 888, was passed this year and sent to Governor Kemp for his signature. Surprise bills are issued when services provided to a patient are from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities. These bills result in significantly higher costs for patients than are expected. This bill will impose accountability on insurers and healthcare providers and protect patients from being treated unfairly.
To provide Georgians with additional information on the in- or out-of-network status of a hospital’s specialty groups, the House and the Senate passed House Bill 789. HB 789 creates a “Surprise Billing Rating System” that helps Georgians make more informed healthcare decisions. This legislation creates a searchable rating system that shows whether a hospital’s specialty groups are in or out of network for particular insurance plans, giving Georgians the opportunity to choose a facility using this information and avoid a surprise bill.
We also passed legislation this year that creates significant cost-savings for taxpayers through additional oversight for state healthcare plan contractors. House Bill 991 creates the Health Care Transparency and Accountability Oversight Committee. This committee reviews the performance and conduct of all state healthcare plan contractors and their subcontractors. The committee is composed of nine members: a physician, a pharmacist, and a consumer member who receives benefits from a state health care plan, each appointed by the Governor; and six members of the General Assembly, including two members appointed by the Governor, two members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, and two members appointed by the Speaker of the House.
We are proud to stand up for Georgians and fight for greater transparency and reduced costs in healthcare. Thank you all for allowing me to represent Georgia House District 159. It is truly an honor to work for you and this great state. If you have any feedback, do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail, or engage on Facebook. If you would like to receive email updates, please visit my website to sign up for my newsletter or email me.
Jon Burns represents District 159, which includes parts of Bulloch County in the Georgia General Assembly where he serves as the House Majority Leader.